–SC rejects reports submitted by PEMRA, ECP, defence ministry in detailed order of 2017 Faizabad protest
–Election body, federal govt ordered to explain why outfits involved in violence should remain registered as political party
–SC judges ‘amazed’ at ECP’s explanation that TLP was registered as political party by an overseas Pakistani based in UAE
–Top court wants to know ‘law/rules/instructions governing ISI and its mandate’ and parameters of any protest
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday ordered the election watchdog and the federal government to explain why Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) continues to remain a registered political party, as it issued a detailed order in the suo motu case regarding TLP’s protests at Faizabad Interchange in Islamabad during November 2017.
The detailed order was made as a two-member bench of the apex court, comprising Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Qazi Faez Esa, resumed hearing of the case.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had submitted a report on the registration of the TLP as a political party which was rejected by the top court.
“The report is signed by the secretary, who we are told, has taken a one-day holiday for an undisclosed personal reason on the very day this case was fixed, which creates the impression that this hearing is being avoided,” the Supreme Court said in its order while rejecting the report.
“The report states that those who had resorted to the dharna at the Islamabad Faizabad Interchange was registered as a political party. We would want to hear the ECP and the learned AGP on the question whether a party that brought the country to a standstill, caused massive economic loss, the loss of life, injured law enforcement personnel and cause destruction of public and private property can be registered as a political party or be allowed to continue as such,” the order read.
‘UAE EXPATRIATE REGISTERED TLP’:
In addition, the report submitted by the ECP regarding TLP’s registration shows that “a person who held a National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) which showed his residence to be in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)” registered the party with the ECP.
The SC in its order said that ECP director general of law failed to answer if the person who registered the party holds a Pakistani, dual or foreign nationality.
However, the ECP director general of law “instead states that a political party can also be registered by those having NICOPs, but without referring to any provision of law”, the order read.
The order further read that the party failed to provide “particulars of expenses incurred by it which it is required to submit”.
“We are amazed that a senior employee of the ECP, that is the director general (law), ECP, is himself undermining the Elections Act and the Elections Rules [under which parties are required to submit expenditure details],” the order read with regards to ECP DG’s statement that legal provisions over the matter are “cosmetic in nature”.
“Needless to state, the credibility of the ECP is tarnished and undermined when its own senior officer states that its law is cosmetic,” the order read while expressing “grave concern” over the statement.
“ECP is therefore directed to submit in writing whether it proscribes to the views of Mr Muhammad Arshad, its director general (law) and if not then what action it proposes to take against the political party.”
The ECP secretary was also directed to appear before the apex court for the next hearing on November 22.
“We expect the learned AGP to come prepared to attend to the matters noted herein as well those in earlier orders. We also need to determine the parameters of protests and how these have to be handled by the state. In this regard whether there are parallels with earlier protests and how those were handled, including those of May 12, 2007 in Karachi and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s (PAT) dharna at D-Chowk, Islamabad,” the order states.
SC TERMS PEMRA REPORT ‘NON-SERIOUS’:
The top court was dissatisfied with the account submitted by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) regarding the blocking of certain TV channels’ transmissions in parts of the country.
According to the order, the PEMRA chairman verbally informed the bench that they had imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on a cable operator who had interrupted the channels’ broadcasts but that no evidence was provided to confirm the same.
The media watchdog was represented by seven officials in the court. “But not one of them has the proof of the purported fine/penalty that has been allegedly imposed,” the order said.
The bench recalled in its order that the PEMRA cannot curtail the broadcast of any channel “at the whim of any cable operator”.
Although the authority’s chairman did not disagree that transmissions of certain channels have been interrupted, he “expressed his ignorance on whose bidding this was done”.
The order slams “PEMRA’s inability to trace out the culprits [behind the blocking of channels] is undermining [the] fundamental rights [of freedom of speech and press] and the laws governing PEMRA.”
The apex court termed PEMRA’s report “non-serious” and directed the authority to submit a fresh report signed by its chairman.
REPORT SOUGHT ON ISI’S MANDATE:
The Supreme Court directed the secretary of Defence Ministry and AGP to “submit the law/rules/instructions governing ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) and its mandate”.
The order states that the court was informed by the country’s premier intelligence agency through a report that the agency can neither ascertain whether a person has a bank account, nor whether he or she is a taxpayer, and that such information could only be obtained from the State Bank and the Federal Board of Revenue, respectively.
In response to the bench’s inquiry, Defence Ministry Director (Legal) Brig Falak Naz stated that the intelligence agency is governed by the laws of the country, “but without mentioning any law”, according to the order.
SC TO FIND PARAMETERS OF PROTEST:
The SC bench has stated it will determine in the future hearings of the case “the parameters of protests and how these have to be handled by the state”.
The court will also examine whether there are parallels to protests staged by religio-political groups in past protests and how those were handled, including the May 12, 2007 demonstrations in Karachi and the 126-day sit-in jointly staged by the PTI and PAT in 2014 at D-Chowk.
The protests and sit-in at Faizabad Interchange by TLP workers lasted for three weeks until an agreement was reached with the government on November 27, 2017.
In the same month, a suo motu notice of the sit-in was taken by the country’s top court.
Earlier this month, the TLP held countrywide protests against the acquittal of Aasia Bibi — a Christian woman acquitted after eight years on death row for blasphemy — condemning the judges on the bench hearing Aasia’s case, the prime minister and the army chief.